|Why oh why couldn't it be |
Temple of the Dinosaur God?!
I'll be completely honest. Being a guy who loves books, games and writing, I am rather jealous of anyone who gets to write/edit/publish Gamebooks. Therefore naturally Tin Man Games sit top of the list of the people/companies that inspire me/are places I want to end up at with my life. The whole point of doing Creative Writing at Uni is to try and get myself a better chance of becoming an FF/GA author in the future. That and to get more creative with my wording - I am currently having a go at writing a gamebook with a working title of Shipwreck Survivor, which is horrendously lame. Still, the prospect of going into a bookshop one day and seeing a book with the name Eddie Boshell on it drives me to keep writing and endeavour to continue improving. Anyway, this is supposed to be a gamebook playthrough blog, not a job application! My first GA title I ever bought was #7 in the series, Temple of the Spider God. For that simple reason, it shall be the first GA playthrough I feature on here. Yes, I know this is primarily an FF blog, but hey, Tin Man have the FF licence now, so if you think about it they're all one big happy family anyway! Quite why Temple was the first GA I bought I have no idea - I HATE SPIDERS. I'm not an arachnophobe as such; I have nothing against Scorpions. But Spiders. Spiders can fuck off. Yet I cannot deny they make a classic fantasy monster owing to alot of people sharing my irrational fear of them. Well, I say irrational. It would be irrational if Spiders had done nothing against me. But after dying to them in my first few attempts at Temple the day I bought it, I'd say I have fair reason to fear them. Temple is illustrated (In colour! - see later for my views on this) by Joshua Wright, with the cover art by Dan Maxwell. The adventure itself is penned by Jonathan Green.
|Quite possibly the greatest|
evil genius within the world of Fantasy
gamebooks - I like to think that's
a wonderful compliment.
GA books follow similar yet different rules to an FF title. There are 3 different difficulty settings; Classic, Bookworm and Novice. The difficulty setting determines how many bookmarks you get, which are a sort of checkpoint you can return to if you die; I love these, especially given how punishing the combat system can be. They also slightly affect your starting stats. Gone are Skill, Stamina and Luck. In GA you have Vitality, Fitness, Offensive and Defensive. Vitality is essentially the same as stamina, and Fitness works in much the same way as Skill. Offensive and Defensive only apply during combat, and effect the number of dice you get to roll for your attack and defence respectively. You don't roll for the latter two stats; they both start at 1 and can reach a maximum of 6. Now for that combat. FF employs what I like to think of as a easy to use yet basic combat; GA uses a more realistic yet hard-hitting style. In GA you take turns to attack and defend, rolling a number of dice equal to your offensive or defensive stat, depending on whether you're attacking or defending. Unlike FF, it is not your highest total that wins the attack round/parries the blow, but the highest number on the dice. This means that a person with offensive value 6 can still struggle against a defensive 1. What makes this system so punishing is that if you're hit you lose vitality points equal to the total of the winner of the attack round. Therefore you could roll 6 5's for your defence, yet if your opponent rolls 5 4's and a single 6, you take a gargantuan 26 vitality hit. Ouch. You can test for fitness in a similar way to testing luck in FF - if you pass you add 1 to the number of your highest die roll, or subtract 1 if you fail. Temple also features Phobia rolls when coming across Spiders, a stat that is thankfully predetermined otherwise my phobia score would most likely be 1. Anyway, that's a basic overview, time to dive in!
I decided to play on Bookworm difficulty, which is the middle ground - you get more bookmarks than classic but don't get any nice additions to your stats. Therefore for my starting vitality I roll 4 dice and add 24, and my fitness roll 1 die and add 6.
|This would be a great time to split...|
Despite losing 1 of my offensive value due to failing that phobia roll (Which explains why it starts at 2) I skewer the hideous creature on my sword, taking in a huge sigh of relief. Unfortunately, Cortez's crew lob the chest at me as they try and escape. Petey's Spider Sense (Ok, Fitness) again saves the day, as I expertly catch the chest and hurl it back in one sweet move, knocking one of the bastards out. Swiftly killing the other, I catch my breath as the Duke gives his chamberlain a right rollicking for letting these would-be murderers in. What follows is truly gruesome. I notice a lump on the dead guy's back. Thinking in the confusion Petey had thrown a Spider tracer onto his back, he checked it out. It wasn't a Spider tracer. It was another giant spider, with it's fangs buried in the man's spine. Just before the Spider detaches itself from it's dead host, I run it through, doing the same as I discover the other man was the same. Positively disgusting. I am only glad there was no illustration for this; it was disturbing enough as it is! Duke Rodrigo now decides I must lead an investigation into what the hell just happened, as it would appear Cesaro Cortez is not dead after all. For the good of that poor Ferret, he must be found! I am given 60 Pestados and sent on my way.
|There's something fishy going on here...|
|All those Spiders, and not a single radioactive one.|
On my bizarre venture into the bazaar I buy some armour, (Defence up to 4) a better sword, (Offence up to 3) a rope (provided it doesn't strangle me it shall be most useful), some anti-venom and a fuckload of healing herbs. I'm given the option of trekking via land or the sea to reach the Isla des Desperanza. Thinking I'm more likely to avoid Spiders by taking the wet route, I look for a ship. Unfortunately, my heroism from earlier catches up with me, and some Slavers who weren't around earlier come hunting for my head. Teaching them the error of their ways in a pretty finite way, I find a captain Nesto who reluctantly agrees to take me places. Sticking to the safety of the shore, we go on a bit until we come across a wreck, which I duly investigate. Some rather powerful Crabs get rather crabby about their home being disturbed, so I send one of the crew in to fight. That's one of the interesting dynamics about Temple; there's various opportunities to gain allies to help you out in fight situations, which is extremely helpful. Derek the Crewman is a good Crab-slayer, so soon we can explore the wreck in safety. I find two Emerald eyes and another journal page, this time mentioning of a sleeping God...
|Alas poor Derek, I knew him well.|
Inside is hell reincarnated as a Spider. On the ceiling lies a Spider 'at least twice as big as a carthorse. It's bulbous body is mottled a filthy green and brown.' Gulp. With suitable music in the background, Carl and myself chop through some more human hosts and force our way through to the mammoth Spider. Miraculously passing my phobia check on the largest Spider yet, a titanic duel ensues. Carl gets eaten almost instantly, but I just about survive to end the monstrosity. Unfortunately, this Spider is a different species from the Skullbacks, so it's just a random fucking huge evil thing. Hooray!... Raising the temple to the ground, I return to Nesto mourning the loss of Derek and Carl. A day after the Quintos visit the lookout (The third brother, Clive) spots the Isla des Desperanza on the horizon. Suddenly a concentrated beam of light sets the Kraken alight, forcing Peter to dive into the sea. When I eventually come to I have not become a Scorpion again but rather landed on the Isla des Desperanza. What a stroke of luck! Clive is nowhere to be seen though; Doris is going to have a hard time when news of her sons' equally painful deaths gets through...
In the Jungle, the mighty jungle, the lion is strangely absent. After wandering around for a bit, I find a bridge full of webs and Spiders. Jonathan Green - Why must you gnaw at my fears so constantly?!?! Taking in a deep sigh, I prepare to cross. Halfway across a different variety of giant Spiders (as big as dogs this time!) come hurtling towards me. Now more than capable of coping with my phobia, I draw my sword. Be-legging them, I sprint across the remainder of the bridge, coming across a statue of a giant Spider, complete with Sapphires for eyes. Just avoiding a poison dart flying from the Spider statue's mouth, I grab the eyes and move on. To cannibal Pygmies. Peter runs for his life, but gets hit by a dart from their blowpipes. Thank god for that Anti-venom! I just about survive with enough energy to make my escape.
|Think this, but covered with webs and Spiders.|
Not the best holiday destination.
It's worth noting that there's ALOT of ways to die in this. There is a separate death paragraph for any fight you lose, so I imagine Jon had some fun writing all of those gruesome ends. My journey before getting eaten was as follows:
1–159–249–123–482–560–125-600-157-4-57-241-551-559-464-568-525-564-433-514-350-397- 143-189-238-416-599-220-269-507-594-29-102-138-269-507-102-138-142-569-117-496-487-267-587-319-373-188-511-425-265-124-450-601-353-598-372-23-443-108-96-30-526-494-132-185-106-172-578-603-273- 275-512-486-562-338-421-575-597-483-198-78-455-303-550-302-446.
I only visited 83 different paragraphs; that's not many. There's also more paragraphs than your average FF book in this. The nature of GA books being digital means I don't actually know how many paragraphs there are, but as you can see from above there's over 600! The fact there's a separate death one for each fight lost would increase the number substantially though. Despite the small number of paragraphs I visited, I had to unsheathe my sword on a vast number of occasions -
Skullback Spider - Vitality: 4 Offensive: 2 Defensive: 1
Conquistador 2 - Vitality: 9 Offensive: 3 Defensive: 2
Slaver 1 - Vitality: 10 Offensive: 2 Defensive: 2
Slaver 2 - Vitality: 13 Offensive: 2 Defensive: 2
Sailor 1 - Vitality: 10 Offensive: 1 Defensive: 2
Sailor 2 - Vitality: 9 Offensive: 1 Defensive: 2
Skullback Spider 1 - Vitality: 10 Offensive: 2 Defensive: 1
Skullback Spider 2 - Vitality: 8 Offensive: 2 Defensive: 1
Thug 1 - Vitality: 10 Offensive: 2 Defensive: 2
Thug 2 - Vitality: 10 Offensive: 2 Defensive: 2
Scar Crab 1 - Vitality: 8 Offensive: 3 Defensive: 3
Scar Crab 2 - Vitality: 14 Offensive: 3 Defensive: 3
Ambusher - Vitality: 12 Offensive: 2 Defensive: 1
Spider Host 1 - Vitality: 12 Offensive: 2 Defensive: 2
Spider host 2 - Vitality: 14 Offensive: 2 Defensive: 2
Monstrous Spider - Vitality: 25 Offensive: 5 Defensive: 3
Web-Shooter 1 - Vitality: 10 Offensive: 3 Defensive: 1
Web-Shooter 2 - Vitality: 9 Offensive: 3 Defensive: 1
Venomous Spider 1 - Vitality: 16 Offensive: 4 Defensive: 1
Venomous Spider 2 - Vitality: 14 Offensive: 4 Defensive: 1
So, as is common with a Jonathan Green gamebook, there are numerous fights. By the quick and sometimes harsh nature of combat in GA, an opponent with Vitality, Offensive and Defensive values of 1 could theoretically kill you regardless of how high your totals were; Obviously though the Monstrous Spider was the most dangerous combat of those above. My next feature's name is very FF-orientated, not GA, although seeing how Jon has penned FF himself, not to mention (again) the fact Tin Man have acquired the digital FF licence, I don't see why I can't re-use the name for a GA book. So sit tight, it's time for...
HOW MUCH FIGHT WAS IN THIS FANTASY?
|Trust me - you don't even want to|
know what THAT is...
Illustrations: The nature of a digital gamebook means I cannot just flick through the book and see all the illustrations for myself. Therefore there are a number of images I simply haven't seen. That said, the ones I did come across were of good quality and as previously mentioned, in colour. Now, I'm not sure about this. There's something nice about a black and white image in a fantasy gamebook. I'm not sure what; I just prefer a non-colour image. Saying that, I fully understand why Tin Man use colour illustrations. They work far better in a digital gamebook than an actual real-life book and are perhaps more appealing to the casual consumer. If Temple was ever released as an actual paperback (If anyone at Tin Man reads this, please make paperbacks of the GA series, I'd happily buy them all over again if you did!) I think black and white illustrations would work far better. The cover is nice; it gives an atmospheric feel for the whole jungle-temple adventure, even if I never did get inside! The 'interior' illustrations are mostly pretty good, with my pick being on the right. It's not my favourite, but it gets brownie points for scaring the shite out of me when I stumbled across it playing at midnight with the lights off! 7/10
Monsters/other NPC encounters: Again, you can't just flick through this and see all the encounters for yourself, which sadly means there's likely many encounters I can't tell you about. However, after finishing my playthrough I did play again on Novice, taking a slightly different route. There was a Vampire living in that noble's palace, Spider Centaurs inside the temple and Inzi, who is best described by looking above. As is common with Jon Green adventures, there is also a pleasing amount of NPC's to talk to and explore with. The addition of allies to help with combat (Poor Derek and Carl) is a nice feature that helps to ease the pain of the sometimes brutal combats. Combats in a Jon Green book are notoriously fiendishly difficult (apparently the opening combat in this was altered to make it slightly less horrible) and whilst there are many challenging fights I wouldn't say any are unfair here. Except perhaps Inzi. She's a real bitch. Despite the strong focus on Spiders there's some great variety here. 9/10
Storyline/Plot: There's a great story here, with a sense of mystery surrounding Cesaro Cortez. More is revealed to the reader as they progress, with the journal pages teasingly revealing bit by bit if you can find them all. Without giving away too much from the ending, everything falls quite nicely into place. Exploration is something I would encourage - there are many side quest style mini plots and adventures that help add to the adventure, like that noble Vampire. Jon Green is known for his strong storytelling within his gamebooks: This one is no different. 9/10
Difficulty: When I played back through on novice difficulty, I actually completed this! Starting with 12 fitness helps immensely; there's numerous pass-or-die fitness tests near the end, so a strong fitness score becomes a minor necessity. The only items you truly need are those various jewelled eyes (Not just the ones I found in the above playthrough though!) but buying items from the market to help boost your Offensive/Defensive scores is very useful. Of course, I could have used one of my bookmarks to 'turn back' to just before I died to those venomous Spiders and replay the fight, such is the beauty of the inclusion of such 'save points'. For the purpose of my own rules for this blog I did not do this, but I can't stress what a handy feature the bookmarks are. Their inclusion lowers the difficulty somewhat, but this is still challenging enough. 7/10
Seal of Approval?: This is a great adventure. I cannot stress how much I hate Spiders, but I was strangely drawn in by this one and it's 8-legged inhabitants. The Mayan/Spanish/Mexican exotic setting worked well; I felt really immersed within it. Worth noting is the vivid descriptions of the various encounters and places, which is something Jon Green has done very well here. That description of my death was equally as beautiful as it was terrifying, as bizarre as that sounds. I know you guys are probably fed up of what follows but I promise not every entry will have the blighter below!
|Different gamebook series. Same Seal.|
GA books may work similarly to FF ones, but they are equally as enjoyable and definitely unique. The combat system is of particular interest; after I have got through some more playthroughs of both series I will do a mini debate on the pros and cons of both systems. I will be returning to FF next time out with that promised playthrough of Forest of Doom either later this week or early next. Now you've read this, go check out some other blogs in the FF/other gamebook playthrough family. Paul's been travelling through the stars, Murray's been dealing with deadly talismans and Marsten's been going all oriental. Marsten's also been looking at multi-player gamebooks; stay tuned on that, we may have an interesting collaboration coming to a blog near you soon! If you like the sound of GA, check out the official website for more on the series. I already linked them earlier, but also check out Tin Man Games for news on their projects and currently a very interesting feature on the combat in GA books. Lastly each and every one of you (Including you!) should pay Jonathan Green's blog a visit to check out his vast collection of various fantasy projects. The last thing I should do is the moral for this escapade. Never enter a spider-infested temple from the side. Remember that folks, it could just save your life.